Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NBA Center Jason Collins Comes Out As Gay... The First Openly Gay Athlete Playing In One of America's Four Major Team Sports!


This story appears in the May 6, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated.

Jason Collins writes:
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.

I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand. 

NBA commissioner David Stern said,
"Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”

and Nike, Jason's corporate sponsor, was also supportive,

"Jason (Collins) is a Nike athlete. We are a company committed to diversity and inclusion."
It has been a looooong time in coming - happy news!  And the last words of this post go to Jason, who wrote in his piece in Sports Illustrated:
Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it's a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I'll sit down with any player who's uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road. Former players like Tim Hardaway, who said "I hate gay people" (and then became a supporter of gay rights), fuel homophobia. Tim is an adult. He's entitled to his opinion. God bless America. Still, if I'm up against an intolerant player, I'll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.

The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I'm much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.

I'm glad I can stop hiding and refocus on my 13th NBA season. I've been running through the Santa Monica Mountains in a 30-pound vest with Shadow, the German shepherd I got from Mike Miller. In the pros, the older you get, the better shape you must be in. Next season a few more eyeballs are likely to be on me. That only motivates me to work harder.

We're cheering you on, Jason!


p.s. - my thanks to Karol for the first of many heads-up about this story!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Resources: The Sylvia Rivera Law Project's "Toilet Training" Video - The Challenge People Who Don't Conform To Gender Norms Face In Just Needing To Use The Bathroom

This excerpt from a longer video is thought-provoking!

The video addresses the persistent discrimination, harassment, and violence that people who transgress gender norms face in gender segregated bathrooms.  Using the stories of people who have been harassed, arrested or beaten for trying to use bathrooms, Toilet Training focuses on bathroom access in public space, in schools, and at work.

Find out more at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Transformational Project - Jen Rosenstein Photographs Transgender People

This Transformational Project, as conceptualized by photographer Jen Rosenstein, is

"a platform for the trans community to express themselves any way they want."

It's a powerful project, both in its images and its impact - as reported on ABCnews, for some of the transgender subjects, it's the first time they've ever been photographed as who they really are.

You can see more of the Transformational Project images at Jen Rosenstein's website (note that some photos are nudes.)


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Universal Forces - A Hetero Teen Romantic Thriller With Gay Characters and Complications

Universal Forces by Monica Shaughnessy

Cassie, the daughter of an astronomer, falls for Jake, a boy brainwashed by religious zealots. Their relationship is further complicated by the fact that Cassie's best friend, Daniel, is gay, and Cassie is terrified to admit it to Jake. If she does, she might lose him. If she doesn't, she might lose Daniel.

Far from a bland "gay sidekick," Daniel's sexual orientation provides the impetus for several story turns and complications, and he lives out a very rich subplot of his own, including mustering the courage to take a date to prom and dealing with a questioning football player who's desperate to maintain a heterosexual facade.

This book was published by the author.  Add your review of "Universal Forces" in comments!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cardcaptor Sakura - A Lady Hero Manga with Lots of Rainbow Love

Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP

One of manga’s most enduring classics, Cardcaptor Sakura follows fourth-grader Sakura Kinomoto as she seeks to pacify the monsters accidentally unleashed when she opens the spell book of the legendary magician, Clow Reed. Along her journey to protect the people of Tokyo, she is aided by friends, family, and rivals, all of whom stir up the drama with their crushes and secret agendas. Fantasy action and emotional revelations grip Sakura as she unravels the mysteries that surround her.

This manga is unforgettable. The reader can’t help but fall in love with Sakura, the optimistic hero, Tomoyo, her loyal best friend, and Toya, her tough-but-always-there-for-her big brother. Yet the world of Cardcaptor Sakura is not all cherry blossoms and sunshine. Running throughout the story is an undercurrent of grief as the characters cope with the past death of Sakura’s mother. The story reveals how one person’s life touches many others as the Kinomoto family and their friends find healing each day through love for one another.

This manga consistently challenges gender stereotypes by depicting a young woman who discovers her own power and stands as a hero to save the world. While Sakura herself may never develop feelings for another girl, same-gender crushes and romances spring up at every plot twist. Over time, everyone falls in love with somebody else. We’re all used to love triangles, but by the third volume, this story is a veritable love hexagon! Not only is the complex dance of attractions riveting to the reader, but it also affirms the truth that tender affection can grow between any two people. Love isn’t about finding a set of body parts that compliments yours. It’s about finding that one human being you connect with, body, heart, and soul, and protecting that person from pain and defeat, and sharing a mission worthy of everything the two of you have to give. Ultimately, Cardcaptor Sakura calls us to find the strength in ourselves to stand up for justice and embrace love with courage.

This manga has recently been released in four thick omnibus books.  It's the second title I’ve reviewed by the team of four fabulous women authors who call themselves CLAMP.

This series is known for being compelling to readers of all ages. I was lucky to discover it for the first time in college, which was a very dark time in my life. Sakura’s innocence reinvigorated my child-like spirit, and Toya’s absolute-hotness convinced me that yes, I was in fact gay, and how could I not be when men like Toya Kinomoto existed?! I wish I had met these characters when I was just starting to read. They could have helped me replace angsty self-rejection with a hopeful love for life!

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of "Cardcaptor Sakura" - individual issues or the series - in comments!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Debris Dreams - A Lesbian Teen Sci Fi Adventure (With A Main Character Who's A Person Of Color!)

Debris Dreams by David Colby

1.5 million kilometers above the surface of the Earth

Drusilla Xao has only seen a tree in movies and vid-games. She has never breathed air that wasn’t recycled, re-filtered, and re-used a hundred times over again. She has never set foot on the Earth.

And now she never will.

When a terrorist attack by a radical separatist group on Luna destroys the space elevator that had called so many – including her parents – to live permanently in space, Dru is cut off from any hope of ever reaching Earth and her beloved girlfriend, Sarah. The Chinese-American Alliance declares immediate war on the rebels and conscripts everyone they can get their hands on…including Dru.

Cast adrift, forced to become a soldier, trapped in a nightmare of vacuum and loneliness, Dru’s training will help her survive, but only Sarah will be able to bring her home.

You can check out the book's website here that shows Twitter feeds for two of the main characters, plus some of the news organizations that cover the war in space that the novel revolves around. 

Add your review of "Debris Dreams" in comments!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A New Book Shelf: Stereotype Smashers! Nerds & Jocks in "Game Changer" by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I'm excited to launch this new bookshelf today, with a guest review by my friend and blogging elementary school librarian Yapha Mason

Game Changer by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Grades 5-9

KT is an average student, but an amazing softball player. Although she is only in eighth grade, she is already working towards a softball scholarship in order to go to college. During a freak accident in a championship game, she blacks out. When she wakes up, it is to a world turned upside down. In this new world, sports take place during the school day — these are the regular classes. After school sports are now “Acs,” or academic competition. The mathletes are now the school heroes, and the former jocks get straight A’s but are regarded as the teachers’ pets and “nerds.” KT has the hardest time making sense of this world, where all of her softball trophies are replaced by her brother’s math trophies. Her parents are embarrassed by her need to exercise and beg her not to jog to school. They even want her to drop her nickname. KT slowly puts the pieces together, figuring out how this world works. Next, though, comes the challenge of trying to return to her own world. Another winning fantasy story from Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Check out Yapha's bookapalooza blog, and add your review of "Game Changer" in comments!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Flying Through Yellow - A Gay Dancer's Memoir and Advice On Being An Artist

Flying Through Yellow by Michael Apuzzo

Stop at red.  Go at green.  But what are you supposed to do at the yellow lights?  On life's road, you can't afford to slow down, especially as a young, aspiring artist. 

Michael is a dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and his life story shows that no matter what type of yellow light appears in your life (being bullied, questioning your sexuality, learning to dance for the first time, auditioning...) you have to fly through it.

Add your review of "Flying Through Yellow" in comments!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Silver Diamond - A Fantasy-Action Manga With A Gay Romance

Silver Diamond by Shiho Sugiura

Silver Diamond is the modern-day fairytale of Rakan Sawa, a boy who mysteriously arrives in our world as a baby with his mother. Now a teenager and an orphan, Rakan hopes to lead a simple, gentle life with compassion and kindness. Adorable and happy but a little lonely, he lives alone, cooks, cleans house, and cares for the plants his mother loved. His world changes when rugged and mysterious Chigusa Senroh arrives from whatever place Rakan truly comes from. Chigusa is a freedom fighter and instantly recognizes in Rakan a potential ally in his struggle for justice. At first, Rakan is resistant to admit the magical, distinctly-non-normal implications of Chigusa’s existence, but over time, Chigusa’s kind soul, offers of protection, and unspoken need for companionship call Rakan to a shared sense of mission and, possibly, love. Secrets unravel around the origins of these two men as they face their destinies side by side and strive to save two worlds from destruction.

This manga is at once a powerful love story and a thrilling fantasy adventure. Its elements of magic and inter-realm politics are revealed through deep and suspenseful storytelling. Rakan’s struggles might be especially compelling to anyone who has had their “normal” life shaken by feelings for someone the world told them they weren’t supposed to love. His journey to understand and accept his true identity and calling is an inspiration to us all.

Admittedly, the portrayal of the romance between Rakan and Chigusa is sometimes inconsistent. Between moments of intimate connection are humorous scenes where Chigusa overtly pursues Rakan and is called a “pervert” for doing so. This inconsistency may indicate to some a negative attitude toward homosexuality, but I think it’s just an archetype in romance manga for the pursuer to be pushed away due to the embarrassment of the pursued. It is clear to me that the attraction between these boys is mutual. They are dedicated to each other and consistently treat each other with tenderness. My on-going hope as a reader is that the two will embrace their destinies and become a couple.

The series is composed of twenty-six volumes.

There are some swear words and violent scenes, innuendo, and Chigusa takes his shirt off every once in a while (swoon!), but there’s nothing too scandalous. I would have felt very happy reading this manga when I was thirteen-years-old.

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of any or all of the "Silver Diamond" manga series here in comments!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Fall - A Gay College Athlete Comes Out and Comes of Age

The Fall by Ryan Quinn

The new school year at Florence University, nestled in the Pennsylvania countryside, dawns bright with the possibilities that only a fresh start can bring. For three students in particular, it will be a year unlike any other, one that will alter the courses of their lives forever. There is Ian, the film buff trying to figure out his life—and how to catch the eye of the football player he can’t stop fantasizing about; Casey, the local football star whose future off the field is frustratingly uncertain; and Haile, the classical-music prodigy seeking refuge from a past life so that she may start anew as a singer-songwriter. Together the trio will form a fateful friendship, told through alternating first-person narratives.

This book was originally self-published and then picked up by the new traditional publisher Amazon Encore.  Add your review of "The Fall" in comments!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Why we need to get past the idea that "Acceptance" and "Tolerance" are good enough.

Amelia on Huffington Post Gay Voices wrote this great piece, 'Accept' and 'Tolerate' My Gay Kid?  That's Not Good Enough.

I loved and identified with Amelia's responses to U.S. Senator Rob Portman saying he now supports gay marriage because his son came out to him, and to U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon saying he still doesn't support gay marriage even though his own son is gay.

And when Amelia said

I've been fortunate enough to hear from gay kids all across the country. A lot of them don't have supportive families, but some do. I cherish the good stories, but there's often a moment in those good stories that makes my heart hurt: when they tell me how happy they are that their parents "still" love them -- because all those kids knew that not loving them was an option.

My heart hurt, too.

And when she made her point that

Every child deserves to be loved for exactly who they are, so I think it's about time that we change how we talk about our gay children. Let's abolish the words "accept" and "tolerate" and replace them with "cherish" and "celebrate."
I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Check it out.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Rapture Practice - A Born-Again Christian Boy Questions God, Sex and Everything In Between (A Memoir)

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Aaron Hartzler grew up in a home where he was taught that at any moment the Rapture could happen. That Jesus might come down in the twinkling of an eye and scoop Aaron and his family up to heaven. As a kid, Aaron was thrilled by the idea that every moment of every day might be his last one on planet Earth.

But as Aaron turns sixteen, he finds himself more attached to his earthly life and curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn't want the Rapture to happen just yet—not before he sees his first movie, stars in the school play, or has his first kiss. Eventually Aaron makes the plunge from conflicted do-gooder to full-fledged teen rebel.

Whether he's sneaking out, making out, or playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns a few lessons that can't be found in the Bible. He discovers that the best friends aren't always the ones your mom and dad approve of, and the tricky part about believing is that no one can do it for you.

For those of you in Southern California, Aaron has two upcoming events - this Saturday April 13, 2013 at the Santa Monica Public Library and Saturday April 20, 2013 at the LA Times Festival of Books, as part of the panel "Inner Self: Faith & Gay Identity."

Add your review of "Rapture Practice" in comments!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Education of Queenie McBride - A College Freshman and a Homeless Gay Teen's Worlds Collide

The Education of Queenie McBride by Lyndsey D'Arcangelo

A sequel to "The Trouble With Emily Dickinson," best friends JJ and Queenie are now college freshmen.

Queenie comes from a wealthy family, so she's used to coasting through life. Over privileged and overconfident, she doesn't know what it's like for people who have to work hard to earn things. But when she meets Pudge, a homeless gay teen, her worldview begins to shift. And she gets a real-world education that extends far beyond the classroom.

Luckily, her best friend JJ is there to help keep her in line. With the help of Izzy, a strong-headed and beautiful social worker, Queenie somehow learns how to be there for Pudge, leave her old habits behind and become the person she’s always wanted to be.

Sometimes the most important education happens outside of the classroom. You can’t be there for others if you don’t take care of yourself.

Add your review of "The Education of Queenie McBride" in comments.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Voiceful - Two Teen Girls Overcome Tragedy and Find Love... With Each Other

Voiceful by Nawako

Voiceful tells the story of Kanae, a painfully shy high school girl who finally finds the strength to leave her house by listening to the heartbreaking music of the mysterious Hina. No one has ever heard Hina sing in person, but one day, Kanae meets her by chance on the street. They begin a friendship that inspires both of them to face the pain of the past. Over time, their relationship deepens and challenges the two young women to overcome the fears and insecurities that keep them from fully living.

This manga points to the hope that always shines through suffering. Kanae and Hina endure tragedy by carrying each other’s secrets and finding new happiness together. Every moment of the story is heavy with emotion as the characters grow, heal, and encounter one another in love.

The story is complete in one volume which also includes several short stories. It is amazing how much intensity is written into so few pages.

There is no explicit sexual content at all, but there are implications of child abuse and other heavy thematic elements. I would have felt ready to read this manga when I was fourteen-years-old.

Voiceful was written by Nawako. It’s difficult to find information about this author online, so I challenge all of you internet-geniuses to put your detective skills to use and find out more about her!

Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of "Voiceful" in comments!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Trouble With Emily Dickinson - A Lesbian Teen Novel

The Trouble With Emily Dickinson by Lyndsey D'Arcangelo

Josephine Jenkins, better known as JJ, is in her senior year at Sampson Academy. She’s a closet poet, a talented writer suffering from stage fright, and she’s committed the ultimate lesbian faux pas — she’s fallen in love with a straight girl. 

Kendal McCarthy is uber popular. She’s the campus beauty and a cheerleader. Though she may seem to have her life figured out, she’s still searching for that elusive high school experience that will help her make sense of herself before she leaves for college.

When Kendal and JJ inadvertently cross paths, their lives suddenly become a bit more interesting in ways that neither of them ever imagined.

Filled with unique and witty banter courtesy of Queenie McBride, JJ’s over-privileged confidant, this tale of innocent love exposes the reality of what can happen when two polar opposites collide in the most unexpected way through the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

Add your review of "The Trouble With Emily Dickinson" in comments!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Green Eggs And Ham, A Jazz Poetry Performance by Martha Graham Cracker

Some of my favorite poetry is Dr. Seuss.

So when I read in this Huffington Post article that a drag performer had been

invited to read a children's book to a New Jersey after-school kids program -- and then disinvited for being an "inappropriate" choice --

and then was invited instead by Philadelphia's Christ Church Neighborhood House to read Dr. Seuss's classic "Green Eggs and Ham" in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd of children, I had to see it.

It's quite marvelous, and a wonderful way to continue celebrating National Poetry Month.

And so I give you...

Dr. Seuss. A Cabaret Drag Legend. Squalling Children. And An Inspired Jazz Reading...


Friday, April 5, 2013

Noah, A 15 Year Old, His Two Moms, And The Spoken Word Poem That Blew Me Away

Words.  Music.  Emotion.

As the finale of our National Poetry Month celebration here on the blog, watch this... and be amazed!

For his performance, Noah won the NPR storytelling series "Snap Judgement."


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shane Koyczan's To This Day Project: A Poem (and Animation) About Name Calling

This is remarkable, and reminds me of the power of Poetry:

You can find out more about Shane and the To This Day Project here.


ps - My thanks to Kris for sharing it with me, so I could share it with all of you.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Federico García Lorca: Poetry and Wisdom

“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.”

― Federico García Lorca, Blood Wedding and Yerma

I found this quote and the photo of the great Spanish poet Lorca as part of this LGBT History Month archive.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Badger Clark's Gay Cowboy Poem "The Lost Pardner"

The Lost Pardner

We loved each other in the way men do
And never spoke about it, Al and me,
But we both knowed, and knowin' it so true
Was more than any woman's kiss could be...

...The range is empty and the trails are blind,
And I don't seem but half myself today.
I wait to hear him ridin' up behind
And feel his knee rub mine the good old way.

-from 'Sun and Saddle Leather,' by Badger Clark

Badger Clark was the first Poet Laureate of South Dakota (in 1937) and was famous for his cowboy poetry.  I found this Library of Congress photo and this poem in this great Huffington Post article, "Gay American History: The Country's Gay Secrets"

Monday, April 1, 2013

Domicilium - A Poem by Gay Poet Steven Reigns Is Set To Music and Performed by the One Voice Charlotte Choir

Let's start off this month's USA celebration of poetry with our own celebration of LGBTQ poetry!

Here is the poem they're singing...

by Steven Reigns

We’ve been building a table
instead of waiting
for an invitation
to eat at yours.

We’ve been loving
and committing
and creating ceremonies
without needing your permission.

We’ve been talking
without raising our hand to speak.

We’ve been writing
not needing your ink

We’ve been singing
asking for no notes.

We’re building,
not a fortress
but a home.
Where we can be who we are,
love who we love,
and invite you in for a meal.

Steven writes...

The original title for this poem was Domicile. It’s one of the most anthemic poems I’ve ever written. I believe in legal gay marriage but I also believe in gay people not waiting for permission to live the lives we want to live. In this poem, I wanted to dignify all of the glbtq people who have built a community and home for themselves when most forces were saying they couldn’t. It was a great honor to have this poem put to music and performed.

Thanks, Steven!

You can find out more about Steven at his website here.

And to all, no matter where you are in the world, Happy Poetry Month!